I’ve been at the centre. Not any old centre, but THE centre. Now you may ask – as our esteemed leader, shouldn’t you always be at the centre? Of course, and with my history of pinkish-red politics, I’m usually a little left-of-centre, but recently, I’ve been in the centre of the New Academic Street.
That’s me in the picture above. For those with colour tellies, you’ll see I’m in a rather fetching hi-viz tabard and hard hat. My steel-toe-capped boots were about two sizes too large, which left me shuffling around the immense building site like an extra in that zombie film shot in Brunswick. What a treat though: a 90 minute guided tour by the inestimable architect Carey Lyons and his team, who pointed out all the impressive innovations, the vast and cavernous voids that would soon be a-filled with studious students, the new roof gardens that will reach out to ‘greenify’ Bowen Street, and all the mod-cons of the media precinct. To my unfettered joy, dramatic and chasmic diagonal slices have been made through the existing building, cut by a gigantic blade at 27 degrees through floor upon floor. Light will pour into the gunnels of the building, illuminating the grey cliffs off Swanston Street, bringing new life to the basements and backwaters. Goodness me, it was like something from the Old Testament.
Talking of bringing new life to the gunnels, I’ve also been in another centre, the Red Centre. I took a few days leave to steer a chunky 4WD land rover across the MacDonnell Ranges west of Alice Springs and down to Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Camping under the stars, cooking over an open fire, and listening to the distant dingoes by night (at least I bloody hope they were distant) made for a remarkable adventure – by my British standards anyway.
How could you not fall for this deeply spiritual and colour saturated landscape? Rocks rusty red by day, crimson in the evening; sacred boulders the pale buff colour of sandpaper; ironbark, dogwood, witchetty grubs a calcified and sombre grey and black. Outwardly it appears a stilled, static, even dead landscape, but it’s not. Everything moves – from the infinite columns of ants at your feet to the shifting shadows ‘as sharp as knife blades’. It is a terrain, says Elspeth Huxley, ‘of no compromise’.
It was hard to come back to chilly Melbourne but return I did, and glad I was. For we are in the season of student shows, runways, graduate exhibitions, prize-giving and partying. More of that in my next blog, meanwhile I revel in being at the heart of so much student-centred creative energy.